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A THEATREGOER'S NOTEBOOK
by Rebecca Morehouse

TALK ABOUT TIMING
Harry Groener got the title role the old-fashioned way -- he earned it. And as it most fortunately turned out, he was in the right place at the best of times: Sunday in the Park with George won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama just a week after he joined the company. "It's fabulous," he rejoices. "I get out there and I think, 'My God, I'm really in this show!'" 

He learned of the Pulitzer at intermission at a Wednesday matinee. "Word spread from person to person." he says. Stage manager Fredric Orner informed the audience at the curtain call; pleased to be present at a historic moment, many sprang cheering to their feet. The musical's creators, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, hear the happy news from Bernard Jacobs of the Shubert Organization. Backstage: photographers, jubilation and champagne. 

A year ago, someone remarked, the play was giving previews, and some people were walking out. Harry Groener early recognized it as a remarkable achievement. "I felt it was a work of art when I saw Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters init," he says. "It affected me on many levels, and I love Sondheim's music. Getting this show was an incredible present to me." 

He impersonates Georges Seurat, whose famous painting, "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," inspired the show. In much of the first act he is zealously sketching in the park. Is he faking? "They draw me a dotted outline, and I fill it in," he answers. "I'm getting better at it, changing what they do for me, shading it light and dark. I've become very interested in art and drawing."

Incurably afloat, one acting job following another, he has performed in nine regional theatres from Vermont to California. His work in Cats and the Oklahoma! revival fetched Tony nominations; but the 
fast demise of Oh, Brother! and Harrigan'n Hart (he played Harrigan) left a lingering disappointment. "Audiences loved them, and they were just destroyed [by critics]; it's sad."

[[image- black and white photograph of Harry Groener and Maryann Plunkett]]
[[photo credit - Martha Swope]]
[[caption]] Harry Groener and Maryann Plunkett in Sunday in the Park with George[[/caption]]

His actress wife, Dawn Didawick, is at San Diego's Old Globe Theater for the summer. "We'll get together somehow. I want to work on B'way and then go off and do Shakespeare or Chekhov." he plays Lowell Kane in Jeffrey Archer's "Kane and Abel," an upcoming CBS mini-series. He is forming a career much as Seurat painted a canvas -- dot by dot by dot.

DOWN THE LAZY RIVER
"Is the Mississippi River muddy? Are you kiddin'?" twangs Daniel Jenkins, Big River's lovable Huckleberry Finn. In his 16th summer this Kentuckian traveled the Mississippi by raft with the Otrabanda acting company. "The raft wasn't much bigger than the one in Big River," he says, "but we had 10 or 11 people on it." 

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A van and trailers followed the route by land from St. Louis to New Orleans. "We'd stop at underdeveloped river towns that hardly ever get to see theatre, and we'd put them on a show in our circus tent," he explains. "I play fiddle and banjo, guitar and piano, but I'm a hack. We had a cook on the raft. He had a crude stove, but he could roast a turkey and fry grits."

They became intimately acquainted with Buoys. "We'd play a game called 'Kiss the buoy,' to see how close we could get; once, we cracked up a bit. At night we'd sleep under the stars. It was wonderful, a really wonderful adventure." "I love the show and your performance," I said. "Thank-que," he replied.

THE CHOSEN FEW
Lillian Gish, looking glamorous beside Earl Blackwell, was there. And Zoe Caldwell and other top-flight theatricians. Al Hirschfeld floated down the staircase like a showgirl to accept the L.Arnold Weissberger Award. "Al has drawn everybody in show business," Ruth Gordon said, "and everybody looks young and darling and stylish."

The ceremony at the Gershwi Theatre honored 12 new members of the Theater Hall of Fame Edward Albee, RichardBurton, Melvyn Douglas, James Earl Jones, Garson Kanin, Robert Preston, Alan Scneider, Tharon Musser, Lee Simonson, Kim Stanley, Dorothy Stickney and Robert Whitehead. Their names are now inscribed in gold at the Gershwin.

Maureen Stapleton extolled Kim Stanley, rightly calling her "a jewel in the theatre crown" and "a flame of an actress; when she acts the top of my head blows off." Dorothy Stickney rose from her a wheelchair to say, "I'm Very happy and very, very proud."

From Garson Kanin: "I am a theatre animal. You live in the best world there is, the ideal world, the poetic world. You feel always that you're making a contribution to society." And Edward Albee: "How odd to be rewarded for something one was born to do. I am by nature a playwright."

[[Woman in Fur posing Image]]

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